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New documentary turns lens on possibilities to reimagine Detroit

More than half of the world’s 6.6 billion humans live in cities today. By 2050 that jumps to more than 70% … and if we continue down on the path we are on that would be 70% of 9 billion. So the number of people living in cities will just about double to around 6.3 billion by the middle of this century. So says the United Nations.

Urbanization is unstoppable and it means we must reinvent and revitalize our cities. That’s the theme of a new documentary with a working title of Reimaging Our Cities produced by Carrie LeZotte. In case you don’t remember, LeZotte was the producer of the 2009 documentary Regional Roots: The Birth and Evolution of Detroit and Its People. Her new work is based on Detroit Free Press reporter John Gallagher’s book Reimaging Detroit.

The film is not just about Detroit. It’s about the challenges … and opportunities … the world’s cities have as they try and reshape, reimage, reinvent, revitalize, reuse, rejuvenate and reinvest in themselves and their people. Revitalization is, indeed, an international phenomenon in some of the world’s big cities. The documentary takes a look at Flint, Youngstown and Philadelphia as well as Manchester, England and Turin, Italy. These cities are dealing with the same issues as Detroit, where the documentary takes its closest look.

You’ll see Steve Vogel talking about daylighting in Elmwood Cemetery.

You’ll see Jenenne Whitfield from the Heidelberg Project and Chaz Miller talk about the role art plays in revitalization.

You’ll see Gary Wozniak talk about his plans for a tilapia fish farm in Eastern Market, right around the corner from the Roma Café.

You’ll see Riet Schumack, co-director of the Brightmoor Youth Garden, talk about how farming is helping turnaround Brightmoor.

“You can’t wait for the city to figure out what to do with our neighborhoods,” she says. “We have to do something now.”

Programs like Brightmoor farming and other green initiatives are essential to the transformation of urban centers to the cities of tomorrow, LeZotte says. Sustainability is the watchword. “We must make cities we can all live in,” she says.

The documentary is 30 percent shot. “We continue to look for additional funding,” LeZotte says. “On August 1 we will go with what we have and decide if this documentary will be an hour or 90 minutes.” The release date is timed to debut of Gallagher’s new book sometime in early 2013.

Many of the initiatives highlighted in the documentary are not new to those who developed them. People like Vogel and Schumack have been at it for years. It just takes time to bring a concept to reality and have it make sense to the business community.

The old business model was “grow, grow, grow,” LeZotte says. “That is not a shrinking city’s philosophy. We must resize ourselves.”

That means having conversations across all groups and taking action that results in collaboration, a shared vision and a higher degree of reimagination coordination among everyone.

This film showcase the possibilities of urban change and the urban heroes who are reimagining the future of Detroit and many of its sister cities.

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